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The summit and its squalls

Photo: La Silla Vacia

The summit on Venezuela held in Bogotá on April 25, at the initiative of President Petro, had favorable and unfavorable points, questions and challenges for the future.

Among the favorable aspects we observe three. In the first place, having put Venezuela back on the international agenda, after months of lethargy. It is no small thing to bring together 20 countries to refresh interest in a country whose crisis has become part of the landscape. Secondly, Petro reaffirmed the recomposition of the democratic left in the region, with the invitation of Chile, Argentina and Brazil and the exclusion of Cuba and Nicaragua. Thirdly, the activity closed with the reading of a brief, precise and unobjectionable document by Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, which focuses on three points, the first of which refers to the “need to establish an electoral schedule that allows free, transparent elections with full guarantees for all Venezuelan actors”. In this regard, it was mentioned to consider the recommendations of the 2021 European Union Electoral Observation Mission.

Regarding the unfavorable points, the chancellor’s reading alone stands out, in front of the empty chairs of the guests and with no space to answer questions from the press, which denotes the absence of agreements between those attending the Palacio de San Carlos. Another negative aspect is the biased reading of both those who hold power in Venezuela and the opposition; in their respective statements after the meeting, they valued the summit as a positive initiative, but highlighted only those aspects of the document read by the Colombian foreign minister that were favorable to their demands. That is, each one read what they wanted, which keeps them in their corners, without approaching the center of the stage that Petro wanted to generate.

The way in which the summit unfolded raises a big question mark about the character and value of what Leyva read. What does it mean to speak of “common positions” in front of an empty auditorium? What degree of commitment can a document not subscribed to by the attendees generates? Will there be an environment to summon the same guests in the future? Although the summit was intended to be a process and not a moment, the next steps in that process approach are not clear.

Several challenges derive from these uncertainties. The first is to ensure the design of a better methodology that allows guests to feel that they are in a space that belongs to them. The lack of clear messages about the objectives of the summit influenced the uneven participation of people from very different ranks that included everything from prime ministers to third-line officials.

A second challenge will be to signal to all parties that the Petro initiative is not a refreshed version of the Lima Group, but something closer to the Contadora Group. In other words, promote a call that arouses greater interest in the highest ranks of the governments of the invited countries, in order to move towards a group of friends that supports and accompanies the process in Mexico seeking to build bridges between the extremes.

The results of the Bogota Summit remain to be seen. The role of the international community will be to promote this process, facing its challenges from the favorable aspects that it has already built. Bogotá could be an attractive effort for Mexico to get back on track and deliver results.